With a huge lead and a brimful of confidence, Bianca Pagdanganan turned the final round of the rich Anvaya Cove Ladies Invitational into a victory walk, beating Thais PK Kongkraphan and Pakit Kawinpakorn by six on a closing 71 in Morong, Bataan yesterday.
A muffed birdie putt from six feet on the 54th hole would’ve highlighted a triumphant campaign in her first tournament as a pro in the country but the slip proved just a trivial as the kind of fight her rivals had put up in hot, breezy conditions.
For she was in firm control from start to finish of the final round and didn’t lose grip of the big lead – six shots over Taiwanese No. 1 and former Univ. of Arizona teammate Ya-Chun Chang and Thai Pakin Kawinpakorn – she had built after a stirring eagle-aided 67 Thursday.
But more than the romp worth $18,000, the former LPGA Tour campaigner somewhat considered her victory as a big first step for the long trek back to the world’s premier ladies circuit.
“This victory is a big confidence-boost, makes me really excited over how the rest of the year would go,” said Pagdanganan, who dominated the $100,000 kickoff leg of this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour and second leg of the LPGA of Taiwan Tour, emerging as the lone player to have put under-par rounds in all three days for a nine-under 207 total, including a first round 69, at one of the country’s demanding courses.
“It was a tough course, especially with all the challenges. I just stayed steady throughout my whole round and focused on the smaller details of my game. I don’t know, but it took a lot of patience out there with all the best players of each country in the field, They’re all just great golfers,” said Pagdanganan, who heads back to the US today (Saturday) to prime up for the Epson Tour start on March 3 for the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in Winter Haven.
Kongkraphan, the eight-year LPGA veteran who seized control in the first round with a 68 but failed to match Pagdanganan’s second round charge and faltered with 75, bounced back with an eagle-spiked 70 but could only tie Kawinpakorn at second at 213. The latter birdied the last hole to match the champion’s one-under round.
They split the combined second and third prizes worth $19,500.
Pagdanganan, the 2019 SEA Games double gold medalist, stressed it (victory) was a lot more meaningful, saying: “This is my first pro event and first pro win at home. I just enjoyed the moment, the whole experience playing before a home crowd…it’s something very memorable.”
She also credited her two-year stint in the LPGA one of the keys to her victory.
“It’s very competitive out there (LPGA), so I guess, it helped me a lot this week. I felt I was more relaxed out there but not to the point of being complacent,” she said.
Pagdanganan checked Chang’s early charge of birdie on No. 2 with her own feat on the next and no one else threatened or made an attempt to rebound in hot, breezy conditions, enabling the former to play virtually pressure-free the rest of the way.
She dropped a shot on No. 4, birdied the par-4 11th for the third straight day then negated another bogey on No. 14 with a birdie on the next.
Thai Chorphaka Jaengkit turned in the day’s best output of 68 and rallied from joint seventh to solo fourth at 214 worth $6,000, while Chang hobbled when it mattered most, reeling from a triple-bogey on the tricky par-5 No. 10 and two bogeys against three birdies. She ended up with a 74 and tumbled to a share of fifth at 216 with compatriots Tsai-Ching Tseng and Ching Huang and Thai Kusuma Meechai, who shot 68, 69 and 71, respectively.
Ornnicha Konsunthea and fellow Thai Kornkamol Sukaree matched 71s to finish ninth and 10th with 217 and 218, respectively, in the tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., co-sanctioned by the TLPGA and hosted by the Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club.
Chanelle Avaricio, meanwhile, matched Marvi Monsalve’s hole-in-one feat on 162-yard No. 16 Thursday, using a Ping i525 6-iron and a Bridgestone #1 ball to sink her ace in the company of Taiwanese Hsuan-Ping Chan and Tatuera Kotona of Japan.
The feat also anchored last year’s three-leg LPGT winner’s closing 69 that lifted her to joint 16th at 222, while Daniella Uy tied for 27th at 224 after a second straight 73, and Harmie Constantino wound up 29th at 225 after a 75.
Reigning LPGT Order of Merit winner Chihiro Ikeda shot a 76 for joint 36th at 231 while Sarah Ababa and Apple Fudolin pooled 234 and 235 after a 79 and 80, respectively.